Packing the Vegan Lunchbox
by Cathe Olson
When my daughters started at public school last year, I was nervous about what the other kids might have to say about their lunches. Would my girls get teased about the healthy, vegetarian fare in their lunchboxes? Also, what would my daughters think about the foods they other kids were eating? Would they bug me to let them get the school’s hot lunch? What if they felt left out not eating processed foods or meat?
I’m happy to report that my fears turned out to be groundless. Not only did my children not covet the food the other kids ate, but students actually told me they wished I could make their lunches too. Parents and teachers asked me for recipes. And everyone wanted to know where we got our cool lunchboxes?
Why did we have such a successful year? I think it was partly the attitude of my daughters toward their food. They really like the food we eat. They don’t feel deprived because they’re not eating meat, fast food, and processed foods. Contrary to what the media would have us believe, healthy, vegan foods are delicious and satisfying. What did I make for my kids? To start with, I got a lot of ideas from www.veganlunchbox.com (including the very cool laptop lunch box). Jennifer McCann, the author of this popular blog, showed me that lunches don’t have to be sandwiches. Anything can be a lunch: breakfast foods, dinner foods, snack foods. You name it. My only rule was that every lunch I made must have a protein food, complex carb, and fruit or vegetable—and of course, we try to eat mostly whole foods.
Making lunch became easy and fun. Dinner leftovers like tofu stir-fries, brown rice, roasted potatoes, veggie burgers, steamed veggies, pasta, etc. all went into the lunch box—perhaps with a little soy sauce, ketchup, or nondairy parmesan cheese on the side. Muffins were a big favorite. I’d make a batch of 12 and stick them in the freezer so they were always available to pop into the lunch box.
When I made pancakes or vegan French toast on the weekends, I’d make some extra and they went into the lunchbox along with some applesauce and soy yogurt for dipping. (This always caused a big buzz with kids and staff at school—they all thought it was the coolest lunch.) Another favorite was muesli—oats, fruit, nuts, mixed with nondairy milk.
Soup in a thermos along with muffins or bread was great on cold, rainy winter days. We did do sandwiches occasionally too. My girls especially liked almond butter and applesauce on Ezekiel bread, Eggless Egg Salad in whole wheat pita pockets, and peanut butter on sprouted sesame seed bagels.
Here are a few cookbooks that have great lunchbox foods.
Feeding the Whole Family: Whole Foods Recipes for Babies, Young Children and Their Parents by Cynthia Lair
Although this book is not vegetarian, Lair has tons of whole foods vegan recipes and a great section on packing lunches.
Vegan Deli by Joanne Stepaniak
This book is full of salads and soups—perfect for the lunchbox or picnic.
Vegan Lunch Box by Jennifer McCann
This book, by the creator of Vegan Lunch Box Blog, has innovative and delicious ideas for the lunch box. All the recipes are delicious and very well tested.
The Vegetarian Family Cookbook by Nava Atlas
This is a great all around cookbook. It’s not vegan but does contain plenty of vegan recipes and there are vegan alternatives to non-vegan ingredients. The book includes a section on sandwiches, wraps, and school lunches.
The Vegetarian Mother’s Cookbook and Simply Natural Baby Food by Cathe Olson.
These books are not vegan but have lots of vegan ideas for sandwiches, soups, muffins, cookies and crackers made from whole foods. There are also great breakfast recipes that can be used in lunches like pancake mix, vegan French toast, muesli, and scrambled tofu.
And where did we get that cool lunch box featured on the Vegan Lunch Box Blog? www.laptoplunches.com.